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Wednesday 1 June 2022

20+ Best Places to View the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge.

There's just something special about that international orange span across San Francisco's Golden Gate that pulls at the heart strings. 

Like the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, or Sydney Harbour Bridge, it's one of those landmarks that I will never tire of seeing, no matter how many times I see it. And trust me, we saw it a LOT in our eight years in the Bay Area as we had a view over the Bay from our Berkeley apartment. Every single day the sight of the towers peeking out over the fog made my heart flutter.

I know that this is a pretty common reaction for a lot of people, especially if you're seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time, so today I'm sharing some of my favorite places to catch a glimpse of the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center
The official welcome center for the Golden Gate Bridge is located on the San Francisco side of the bridge and is a popular spot with tourists. There is plenty of parking here as well as a bus stop making it easily accessible. You'll find a coffee shop, a gift shop, tourist information and restrooms. There views over the bridge are stunning, particularly from Golden Gate Postcard Viewpoint which, as the name suggests, is a great spot for postcard perfect photos over the bridge. 

Fort Point National Historic Site
The views from the Golden Gate Welcome Center look over the bridge, but if you'd like to take in the views from a lower vantage point, head down the trail to Marine Drive and Fort Point National Historic Site right by the base of the bridge. This civil war era fort is open to visitors and features some pretty cool views. 

Crissy Field
Crissy Field extends along the coast of the Bay from Marina Boulevard almost all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge itself. This stretch of public space includes a few small beaches, a marsh, and plenty of open space for picnics, flying kits and running around all with a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge. You'll find ample parking, public restrooms, a cafe and a gift shop. Crissy Field is a popular spot for public events, art installations and more so keep an eye out for fun events coming up.

Batteries to Bluff Trail
This is one of my favorite hikes in San Francisco because it includes wildflowers, historic ruins, a beach and, of course, views over the Golden Gate Bridge. The Batteries to Bluff Trail starts at Battery Crosby in the Presidio and makes its way down a steep trail, including many steps, to Marshall Beach. The trail is actually pretty short but it is quite a steep climb down to the beach and then back up again. If you're not up for the climb up and down you can still take in stunning views like the one below from the start of the trail. 

Battery Crosby
Battery Crosby in the Presidio is located just just a short walk from Lincoln Boulevard at the start of the Battery to Bluffs trail. If you're not up for a hike down the steep steps to the beach below Battery Crosby is a great spot to take in views over the Golden Gate Bridge. Kids will enjoy climbing on the battery ruins but do keep in mind that there can often be broken glass here. 

Marshall's Beach
Marshall's Beach is accessed via the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and is a great spot for some beach fun with a side of stunning bridge views. It's a nice sandy beach with lots of smooth rocks and the odd log or two. The beach below feels pretty secluded given the steep access, and for this reason parts of it are known as a nudist beach. We've never encountered nudists down there, but it is something to keep in mind.  

Lands End Trail
Lands End Trail features stunning views over the Pacific Ocean as well as the Golden Gate. There are quite a few vista points along the trail including Eagle Point, Dead Man's Point and the Lands End Look Out by Mile Rock Beach. The trail is a great place for a kid friendly hike and if you're lucky you just might spot dolphins in the ocean below. In the opposite direction you'll also find the ruins of Sutro Baths with are worth checking out. 

Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point
Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point is a popular spot to check out views of the bridge. Heading north from San Francisco, this will be the first exit after crossing the bridge. MUNI buses and tour buses stop here making it an easy spot to access whether or not you have a car. It's a great start point for a walk across the bridge with a sidewalk leading directly there. While there are restrooms and water fountains on site keep in mind that there is nowhere to purchase food. I've always thought that it would be a great spot for a concessions stand or food trucks. This spot gets pretty busy but there is plenty of parking available. 

Battery Spencer
Battery Spencer is one of the most popular spots for photos with the Golden Gate Bridge. If you've seen a photo taken from above the bridge with the northern pillars right there, there's a good chance this is where it was taken. Located on the Marin side, Battery Spencer is accessed via Conzelman Road, the last turn off before the bridge. There is very little parking available at Battery Spencer, but given that most people don't stop here for very long the turn over is pretty quick, so it's worth being patient. I mean, look at that view! The bridge is right there. It almost looks like you can reach out and touch it. One of my favorite things about this particular spot is the actual battery itself. Most visitors give this a miss but it's my absolute favorite place for photos with the bridge for a few reasons. First of all, as I mentioned, most people don't go down into the battery so you're much more likely to get photos without other people in them. Second, being a little lower down you can easily take photos that crop out the crowds above. And finally, I just love the contrast of the orange bridge against the green battery ruins. I took our Christmas card photos in the battery one year and it's my all time favorite Christmas card photo.

Golden Gate View Point
A little further along Conzelman Road from Battery Spencer is another popular pull off spot for views overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Simply called Golden Gate View Point, this spot is exactly as the name suggests: it's a view point looking over the Golden Gate. Like Battery Spencer there is not much in the way of parking here, but the turn over is pretty fast. There are a few more pull off spots a little further along, so if you miss this one you'll find another spot in no time.

Bay Area Discovery Museum
Bay Area Discovery Museum is a fantastic play space for young kids which just happens to come with some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge around! Located in Fort Baker on the north shore of the Bay, this museum is popular with locals year round thanks to its assortment of indoor and outdoor play spaces. The museum's playground features a mini Golden Gate Bridge with a view over the real thing. 

Walk across the bridge
What better way to see the Golden Gate Bridge than from ON the Golden Gate Bridge! The bridge features pedestrian access on the eastern side and bike access on both the western and eastern sides. Pedestrian access hours vary depending on the time of year, but during the Summer months it's generally 5am to 8pm. Riding bikes across the bridge is very popular with tourists, but we've only ever walked across it. The bridge walk is actually quite a lot longer than it looks so you'll want to allow at least forty five minutes. It is often incredibly windy up on the bridge, so no matter the weather you'll definitely want to be prepared with some light layers and hold onto your hat! We've walked across the Golden Gate Bridge a few times and I've learned a few things from trial and error so that you don't have to! If you only want to walk one direction, I recommend taking a city bus or a "Hop On, Hop Off" tour bus across the bridge to the northern end and walk back from there. This was you have the city in front of you and I personally think this is the best view. If you do take the city bus across the bridge and you pay with a Clipper card don't forget to swipe your card again when exiting the bus. This is not required of any other MUNI bus in San Francisco so I was not aware of this the first time we took the bus and we all ended up getting charged the full fare to Sausalito! If you chose to walk from the San Francisco end to the northern end be aware that the MUNI bus stop is not easy to find for the return trip. We spent almost an hour searching for it before giving up. You can, however, take the "Hop On, Hop Off" tour bus back from the Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point. Or you can always walk back. 

Hop on Hop Off Bus
Want to cross the bridge to take in the views but don't feel like walking or biking? A Hop on Hop off tour bus is the perfect choice! These buses stop at both ends of the bridge making it a great choice if you'd like to take the bus one direction and walk the other. Sitting at the top of these double decker buses is always fun, but keep in mind that it does get incredibly windy on the bus, so you'll want to secure anything loose before it flies off. And maybe tie your hair back so it's not in your face! Sitting inside the bus on the lower level will keep you out of the wind, but the views aren't quite the same. 

Boat ride under the bridge
For a view like no other, consider taking a boat ride underneath the bridge. There are plenty of tourist boat options available and many will take you under the bridge for a close up view. These are a great option for visitors as well as locals alike with headsets available to learn a little about the city as you take in the views. We took a boat ride one time when my parents visited and it was fantastic seeing the bridge from a totally new perspective. We watched wind surfers jumping our boat's wake as we went under the bridge as well as watching a giant container ship make its way under, showing just how high  up the base of the bridge is from the water.

Pier 39
What's better than seeing one iconic San Francisco sight? Seeing two at once! Pier 39 is famous for its residents sealions and it just so happens that there's a good view over the Golden Gate Bridge from teh sealion viewing area. Pier 39 is incredibly touristy and it's generally somewhere we avoided when we lived in the Bay Area, but there's no denying that the views from here are stunning (there are views over Alcatraz, the city and the East Bay too) and the cute sealions are definitely worth going to check out. They do smell bad though!  

Walt Disney Family Museum
Looking for an indoor location with a view over the Golden Gate Bridge? Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio is the perfect place! This museum is such a great place for Disney fans and history buffs alike with a large collection of original Disney animation stills, items from Disney studios, Disney memorabilia, and many personal items from Walt Disney himself. Oh, and yeah, there are views over the Golden Gate Bridge from both inside the museum and out.

De Young observation tower
Sometimes a glimpse of the orange towers holding up the Golden Gate Bridge is just as exciting as seeing the whole bridge. I always loved the view from the observation tower at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. On a clear day the top of the bridge can be seen poking over the hills in the foreground. The observation tower at the De Young Museum is free to visit and has stunning views over San Francisco from the top as well as a small gift shop. 

Bernal Heights Park
Another great spot for a glimpse of the bridge as part of a city view is Bernal Heights Park. Can you spot the bridge in the photo below? The walk to the top of Bernal Heights Park is one of my favorite city hikes. From the top there are 360 degree views over San Francisco and the Bay including the afore mentioned glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge peeking over neighborhoods. There's a popular tree swing at the top but this faces away from the view of the bridge.

Berkeley Marina
The East Bay is home to some great views over the Golden Gate Bridge. I might be biased because it was our home for 8 years, but Berkeley boasts some of the best views over the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Berkeley Marina is a great spot to check out the views. Not only will you see the Golden Gate Bridge but you'll see Alcatraz in the foreground and San Francisco. Cesar Chavez Park right by Berkeley Marina is a great place to fly a kite with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Berkeley Hills
If you want to see a bit more of the San Francisco Bay along with your Golden Gate Bridge view, head up into the Berkeley Hills for stunning views over the Bay. You'll find fantastic views from many spots, but my favorites are Cragmont Rock Park (where the first photo below was taken), Indian Rock Park (the second photo below), Lawrence Hall of Science, and Grizzly Peak Boulevard.

Albany Bulb 
Albany Bulb is located right along the shore in Albany, just north of Berkeley. Albany Bulb is a popular spot for dog walkers and people wanting to check out the views. It's especially popular at sunset. The views here are pretty similar to Berkeley Marina but it's generally a quieter spot. Plus, as I mentioned above, it's dog friendly so it's a great place to check out the views with your furry friend. 

Our old Berkeley view
Ok, so this one isn't open to the public, but I just had to share my all time favorite view of the Golden Gate Bridge - that being the view from our old apartment. While this obviously isn't open to the public there are plenty of places in Berkeley where you'll find a similar view, including from the top of the Campanile tower at UC Berkeley.

Have you been to any of these places? Do you have a different favorite place for checking out views of the Golden Gate Bridge? I'd love to hear!

Fun fact... I share my birthday with the Golden Gate Bridge! The bridge is a little older than me (forty years older to be exact) but we both celebrated big birthdays last week: forty five for me and eighty five for my favorite bridge. Ten years ago we celebrated the Golden Gate Bridge's seventy fifth birthday with what felt like half of San Francisco is Crissy Field. Sharing my birthday with the Golden Gate Bridge feels like an extra special connection to San Francisco.

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